Your cruise director for this lyrical voyage is a man named Manilow … Barry Manilow.
It’s the Copa, “Copacabana” — arguably the greatest narrative song this side of “Tangled Up in Blue” and “The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia” (which will always have a place in my heart thanks to the “Designing Women” episode where Julia’s defending Suzanne from those beauty pageant snobs who made fun of her for getting fat and she references the Vicky Lawrence classic about murder in a small town — only she’s talking about a pageant in which Suzanne throws a flaming baton so high and so far that it makes the lights go out).
But I digress.
“Copacabana” is one of my favorite songs ever. It’s always in the back of my mind. I can just see me in the old folks home, mumbling to myself, Her name was Lola/she was a showgirl/with yellow feathers in her hair/and a dress cut down to there.
“Copacabana” is so good it should be a Lifetime movie starring Tara Reid as Lola, Tony Danza as Tony and Ray Liotta as Rico.
And like any good father would, I’ve shared this compulsion with my child. Jellybean’s been known to sing “Copacabana” in the bathtub in between chapters of the latest Judy Moody book. And so when making her latest travel CD, the murderous tale of Lola, Tony and Rico was sandwiched in between Fall Out Boy, B.O.B and Michael Jackson.
I hadn’t heard it in a while and had forgotten how it roots in your brain, but not in that addictive way like, say, Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe...). It’s more like Springsteen’s “The River.” After it’s over you’re left wondering ... so, what happened to these people? What happened to Mary and that guy who got her pregnant? (At least one is working at Walmart, no doubt).
But the Copa leaves greater questions unanswered … OK, so one, actually. For the seven people who haven’t heard the song (that’s why Steve Jobs invented iTunes), Lola was a showgirl at the Copacabana where Tony always tended bar. But across the crowded room Rico called her over. But Rico went a bit too far and Tony sailed across the bar and then the punches flew.
Then comes the mystery — there was blood and a single gunshot/but just who shot who?
How can we NOT know who shot who? Granted we later learn that Lola lost her Tony and then she lost her mind, drinking herself half blind, sitting with faded feathers in her hair in the Copa, which is now a disco, so we assume that Tony’s dead. Therefore Rico shot Tony … right?
Or was it a magic bullet, like the one that Kevin Costner said killed JFK and both Tony and Rico were killed?
As for Lola, I always wondered if she ever got her act together. Jellybean thinks she “works in the pet store so she can get new feathers.” I like to think she moved to New York City, opened a dance studio and teaches married couples looking for a spark to dance the cha-cha.
No matter where she is, Lola will always live in our memories and new generations of mix CDs.
Contact Brett Buckner at email@example.com.